By Claire PotterPoetryFive Islands Press


Claire Potter’s debut poetry collection offers a dramatic synergy between observation and feeling, set within the haunting shadows of the swallow’s migratory absence/presence.

Composed of four sections beginning with the persona of a fabled sea-diver clutching seaweed in her hands and culminating in the wing-beat of a giant kinetic bird, Swallow expands the mythological flight of a migratory bird into a credence of vagrancy, refracted through images drawn from tides, letters, beehives and oranges.

Vital and sensuous, complex and intricately worked, these poems come together to form a glorious whole, one overarching poem that is the whole book.

Portrait of Claire Potter

Claire Potter

Claire Potter completed an Honors degree in English Literature in Sydney, before being awarded a French Embassy Scholarship to complete a Masters in Paris, on the setting/scene in psychoanalysis and tragedy. In 2006, Potter was awarded an Australian Young Poet Fellowship, from the Poet’s Union and the Australian Council for the Arts. Her first chapbook, In front of a comma, was published and launched at the 2006 Sydney Poetry Festival. In 2007, her second chapbook of poetry, N’ombre, was published by Vagabond Press. Potter is currently reading a doctorate at the Université de Paris VII, where she is writing about Thomas Hardy. Her poem ‘Mermaids in the Basement’ was highly commended in the 2010 Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize.

Judges’ report

Densely written, the imagery in Claire Potter’s Swallow jumps off the page like you’re there with the poet, inside the experience. Words and phrases meld together, providing new insight into their sense and significance. The selection of titles, subject matter and structure provides a depth and layering to the work which challenges and excites, while it is equally accessible and satisfying in its simplicity. The collection possesses that rare magic, mentioned by Robert Adamson on the back cover, unfolding extra meanings on second and third readings.


This slender book of poetry leads the reader on from the first page to the last – where each page becomes a stanza in the poem of the whole book. Potter’s lines, laced with flight and song, double back through the poems, then unfold extra meanings on second or third readings.

This is really quite a brave work, containing what I like to call ‘essence’. It is lit with tantalising imagery: nature in all its richness; birds and bees and butterflies and leaves so green you can almost smell them. There are dark places too, with undercurrents of human nature’s frailty. A despondence underpins what is essentially a family story but there are inspiring words to uplift the reader, ones to be read, and re-read, to gather all the threads together like a piece of heirloom lace-work.

Amidst these intriguing strings of words the ugly ‘&’ raises its jarring head from time to time. What kind of editor would let this happen? Why is this ancient convoluted shorthand appearing in a lyrical work when, at best, it is only fit for advertising and computer programming? There must be a reason! Perhaps that second read beckons sooner than later!

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist